TOMS RIVER - Even though he is the all-time winningest coach in the history of New Jersey High School baseball and the owner of five NJSIAA Group championship rings, Toms River South baseball coach Ken Frank has also experienced his share of heartbreaking losses in 40-plus years of coaching.

Four outs away from adding to the program's crowded trophy case, Toms River South instead suffered one of the harder-to-swallow defeats of the last half-century.

Allentown - the No. 4 seed in the Central Jersey Group III tournament - struck for four runs in the top of the sixth, including a wild play that scored the tying and go-ahead runs with two out, and the Redbirds rallied to knock off the top-seeded Indians, 4-3.

"This is a very tough loss," Frank said. "It's a game we should have won. Give credit to (Allentown). They're a good team and I don't knock the other ball club."

The winning run Wednesday scored on a two-base throwing error and even after that, Toms River South had a chance to tie or win the game in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third and one out, but stranded both runners.

"This was a very tough loss for Toms River South - the players and the coaches," Frank said. "It was a great game to watch. It was exciting. (Allentown pitcher Jordan Winston) got the strikeouts at the end. All we needed was contact and we couldn't get it."

Toms River South starter Justin Fall left after 111 pitches with a 3-0 lead and runners on second and third and one out in the top of the sixth following a double off the left-field wall by Allentown catcher Chris Reeder. Matt Shiffer came in and got a fly out to deep center by Winston that scored Allentown's first run and moved the runner at second over to third.

Shiffer then hit Giuseppe Arcuri and the Redbirds pulled within 3-2 on a wild pitch while also pushing the tying run into scoring position. No. 9 hitter and shortstop Jackson Fogarty battled Shiffer to a 3-2 count and slapped a single through the left side. Arcuri slid in with the tying run and Jared Kwicinski's throw took a high hop over catcher Connor Leatherman, which gave Fogarty clearance to advance to second base.

Shiffer backed up the play and threw the ball to second in a futile attempt to cut off Fogarty and his throw sailed into center field, which Dylan Danelson vacated while pursuing the batted ball in left field. Fogarty steamrolled all the way around the bases with the go-ahead run and Allentown had erased a 3-0 lead in a matter of three batters.

"There was no play there at all," Frank said. "(Shiffer) has been great all year, so I can't fault him."

Tom Campo singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning and Danelson walked on four pitches to give the Indians an opportunity to tie or win the game in the seventh. Shiffer - the team's leading hitter at .452 - dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt to give Toms River South second and third with one out and the Nos. 2 and 3 spots in the order coming up against Winston. The senior left-hander struck out Fall on three pitches and punched out T.J. Scuderi to seal the game.

"The two and three hitters are coming up, which is what you want," Frank said about the seventh-inning strategy. "Who figures they are going to strike both of them out?"

Toms River South jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by Matt Fitzpatrick and Ben Montenegro - both of which came with two out and on 1-2 counts. The Indians added a run in the fourth when Fitzpatrick doubled to deep left-center and scored on a steal of home. Toms River South put on the suicide squeeze and Fitzpatrick scored standing up when the pitch from Redbirds starter Ryan Huth sailed to the backstop.

Fall cruised through the first two innings by retiring all six batters while striking out five of them. He went on to strike out 10 in the game while allowing just three hits, but four walks and a hit batter contributed to a pitch count that hit 99 by the end of the fifth inning. Still, Fall walked off the mound on the right side of a 3-0 game after keeping the Redbirds bats quiet for five innings.

Allentown will host No. 14 Neptune in the Central Jersey Group III championship game on Friday, while Toms River South will try to regroup for Thursday's Shore Conference Tournament semifinal against Red Bank Catholic at Count Basie Park.

"It's going to be tough coming back tomorrow," Frank said. "Kids have feelings and they really wanted to be playing on Friday (in the sectional final). We were hoping we were going to try to get by tomorrow and come back and win this tournament Friday. Now we've got to try to survive tomorrow against a good ball club in RBC. It's a big difference."

 

Box Score

(4) Allentown 4, (1) Toms River South 3

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Allentown (23-2) 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 4 8 0
TR South (22-4) 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 3 6 1

 

Pitching

Allentown IP H R ER BB SO PC
Ryan Huth 4 5 3 3 1 7 80
Jordan Winston (W, 8-0) 3 1 0 0 2 4 45
TR South IP H R ER BB SO PC
Justin Fall 5.1 3 2 2 4 10 111
Matt Shiffer (L, 3-1) 1.2 5 2 2 0 0 25

Top Hitters

Allentown Game Stats
Ryan Huth 2-3, R
Chris Reeder 2-4, 2B
Jackson Fogarty 1-3, R, RBI
Aydon Chavis 2-4, 2B
TR South Game Stats
Matt Fitzpatrick 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI, SB
Ben Montenegro 1-2, 2B, BB, RBI, SB

 

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